It doesn't matter if your house is spotless.
It doesn't matter if you are a top earner at your workplace.
It doesn't matter what your title is.
It doesn't matter how many hours you volunteer.
It doesn't matter if you are the ideal weight.
It doesn't matter how much money you stick in the offering plate.
It doesn't matter what brands you wear.
It doesn't matter what car you drive.
It doesn't matter many tattoos you have.
It doesn't matter what school you graduated from.
It doesn't matter what game you won.
Your worth is not tied up in any of that. None of that matters.
The way you smile back at people, that matters.
The way you send a silent prayer up when you stumble across those in need, that matters.
The way you show grace when someone slips up, that matters.
The way you stop drama instead of spreading it further, that matters.
The way you are willing to extend a hand even when you feel overextended yourself, that matters.
The way you hold a safe space for those around you, that matters.
The way you allow others to lean into you when they are struggling, that matters.
The way you fill others up with encouragement, that matters.
Quit giving weight to the things that do not matter. Start seeing your worth in the value you are adding to others' lives.
The news of another’s loss, prompts the grief all over again, ripping open the wound. Remembering what the deep trenches of grief feel like, my heart aches for those living in that space right now.
The constant fight between being in the present and wanting to dive into the past to soak it all in and remember every detail. So many emotions flood through your mind. Bouncing back and forth between thankfulness, sadness, regret, anxiety, and love like a pinball machine. Grateful for those who are reaching out yet overwhelmed with the responses and duties that must get done.
The arrangements to be made.
The people to notify.
The acknowledgements to those who took the effort to assist or show up.
The incomprehensible energy it takes to bear your face to the world.
The gifts and food and flowers that fill the kitchen, ride the fine line between a blessing and a burden. Thankful for not having to shop or prepare meals yet overwhelmed with the vast amount and what to do with it all.
So stunned by what has occurred and equally shocked by the outpouring of support, that you become immobile. Burying as much down deep as you can and still unable to contain it all as it seeps through your eyes every hour of the day without warning.
The deep trenches of grief are not confined to the week of the death. You don’t just crawl out the day after the burial, or the day you go back to work. You dwell in this space for weeks, sometimes months, occasionally seeing the light of day through others. Carefully navigating the trenches, you learn to avoid the sinkholes that suck you way under to the dark space. Gradually finding your footing, you slowly climb out of the trenches using others who have been down this road as stepping stones to help you find your way out. You constantly ride the balance between participating in real life and finding a dark corner to sink into, to be alone.
Slowly the trenches of grief dry out. They become less muddy, the ruts become more familiar to walk on. You find solid footing and are able to feel the sunshine. You begin to let others back into your life and can see a greater purpose beyond your pain. It still hurts and the grief can hurl you back into that space in a moment’s notice, but you no longer live down in the trenches. You live in the daylight. You recognize that space was not your forever home, even though it felt like it in the moment. You arise from the depth of the trenches of grief as a strong hope for others just arriving to that space.
It feels like a competition. We are supposed to be reaching for more.
More cars or campers or boats.
More time with the kids.
More time with our spouse.
And in that pursuit of more, we feel defeated. Everything is just right out of range. Just when we hit a new level, the goal post is moved. We can never fully grasp the more.
In this fight to gain more, we are losing what we have today. We are losing the moments of joy and heartbreak that are building the depth in us. We are forgetting that life is not supposed to be the perfection we are striving for.
My heart has a soft spot for the mess of life.
The house in complete disarray because it was filled with kids for the day.
The kitchen table scoffed with scratches and old paint because it is used for so much more than eating.
The souls who dare to be vulnerable enough to cry in front of strangers and let their laughter fill a room.
The buildings with chippy paint on the outside yet filled with banter and good conversation inside.
It is the imperfection that brings the depth to our lives. It is the imperfection that holds the memories. It is the imperfection that tells our story.
Sometimes it is so hard to be a parent.
You read all the books, absorbing all the wisdom, and they still won’t sleep through the night.
You hold their hand and teach them to use their words, and still they turn into biters with vampire-like refluxes every time they get upset at daycare.
You explain wants versus needs, yet they still end up flailing on the floor of Target because they “need” that toy.
You set boundaries and they push limits, breaking their arm jumping off a shed.
You teach them right and wrong and have consequences, and yet they still end up at the party and break curfew.
At every stage of raising these little people, we feel failure as parents. We wonder where we went wrong. We wonder how we ended up in this place. And in all this questioning and self-doubt, we forget that we are all human --- no matter what our age.
We all have good days and bad days, the moments where we feel like following the norm and the moments where we need to rebel. We all have moments where we succeed and moments where we fall short.
The times where I have felt like the best parent are not the times where my kid brought home straight A’s, scored the winning points, or was voted most popular. The times where I know I am doing these kids justice are the times when it feels the hardest.
… when my sister died and they snuggled up next to me asking the hard questions that I tried my best to answer.
... when they were hurt or sick and needed extra kisses and someone to brush their hair back and they came to me for comfort and the reminder that this too shall pass.
… when they see me upset and wrap me a quiet hug to comfort me.
… when they confess and apologize for something they have done wrong, before I even realize it occurred.
… when they show grace to each other, to their friends, and even to me for being less than.
… when they stand up and do the right thing, even when it is difficult.
… when they find refuge and shelter in another trusted adult, instead of me, because I have built the right village to raise them.
These times that feel the hardest are when I am most proud of the people they are becoming – people filled with depth and grace and empathy and courage; people that can have hard conversations, forgive and make their corner of the world a better place.
I’m not looking to raise perfection, I’m just looking to raise good people. None of us have this parenting thing perfected, the best we can do is keep moving forward with faith over fear.
There is something to be said for handmade, and my Great Grandma Anne encompassed everything, “handmade”. Growing up, each Wednesday, we would go to her house before piano lessons to visit and eat cereal cookies. The cookies amazed me as they always tasted delicious but never quite the same as last week. Come to find out she always used just “whatever was in the cupboard” to make them. This was my great-grandma, a loving woman with an uncanny ability to just pull bits and pieces together into something wonderful.
Some of my most cherished possessions are items that were handmade by her. She made my nigh-nigh (baby blanket) from scraps of my mom’s wedding dress - which she also helped sew. She gave me a beautiful gold necklace with the serenity prayer etched on the back for my confirmation, which I am certain was handed down as she rarely bought anything new. But it served its purpose so well, I wore it on my wedding day, long after she had passed. She also lovingly crocheted a blanket as a gift for both me and my sisters’ wedding days, several years before those days ever came about. Just thinking of the planning and love that went into those blankets still gives me goosebumps, as you see she passed away when I was a sophomore in high school, well before I was ready to get married.
Many years before I received that last blanket at my wedding, my sister and I received a quilt from Grandma Anne as a present. We were in elementary school and gave each other “the look” when we opened it. It was a typical patchwork quilt, with scraps of this and that, and neither of us were sure we wanted it on our bed. The material didn’t match and the seams were all over the place; but it was comfy and it got used anyway. Somehow it ended up at college with me and then my first apartment. I was wrapped up in it many nights while my husband was deployed and curled up with it often when nursing my babies. For years it was the go-to blanket for story time, blanket forts and when someone felt under the weather. Even though today there are rips and holes to go with the mismatched fabric and uneven seams, it is still wanted, needed and loved, because it is handmade.
Tucked into my bookcases at home, in between family photos, books and trinkets are more handmade creations. A wooden angel painted by much littler Aleigha, handprint art our family did together, pottery the kids brought home from school, a painting Angie did at my kitchen table, and even an old block of wood with the words “I love you and you love me too.” printed in black crayon by six-year-old Charley, have added to my collection over the years. Sprinkled in are the creations of artisans I have met over the years who have inspired me by their passion and grit and given me encouragement to keep going in my own art.
I want to walk into my house and see the memories made over a lifetime, not a perfectly staged room like a page from a magazine. For me this means piecing together the décor of my house, one memory at a time, always changing and always evolving to tell our family’s story.
Here at The Norway Center Store we value the handmade. We see the people behind the products. Behind each uneven seam or accidental fingerprint in the finish, we see the creator. We know the bravery it takes to release handmade products into the world. We see the hours upon hours it took to get to the place where the maker felt maybe good enough to try to sell these pieces. We see the artisans creating early in the morning and late at night, making time for their passion in between all of their to-dos. We see these people – our vendors – pouring their heart into each piece, one by one, just like my great grandma did, just like my kids do, and just like we do.
Each month we carefully curate our store, considering all the pieces our vendors have created and our theme of the month to bring you a new shopping experience each time you come in. We get excited when our vendors share their new creations with us, explaining how they finally mastered a new technique. We cheer with them when their pieces find their forever home during a show. And we are proud of them, when we can see the fruits of their labor pay off in providing more income for their family.
Each piece created by our vendors tells a story, sometimes it is about the history of a repurposed item or about the maker, sometimes it is about the nostalgia the piece sparks for the customer who takes it home, or the memory it will become when it is given as a gift. We are honored to share these meaningful creations with you to help you curate your home to tell your own story.
"And someday you will find that the Golden Thread was weaved in all along, lining your path with the pulse of His promises."
Artwork and quote by Jessy Paulson, Certified Painted Prayers Instructor
If you have been around here for more than a minute, you have heard us talk about God Things. You know ---- the people, places and events put directly on your path, pointing you towards God when you least expect it.
These God Things have been around forever, but our family had never given them a name until mom coined “God Things” during my sister, Angie’s fight with cancer. Every time Angie or our family needed something, God provided – but the provision didn’t look the way we expected. The fear and pain and heartbreak weren’t swept away like we hoped. Instead, He gave us the people to lean on and the nudges of reminders that he was there holding us tight -- everything from the songs on the radio, to the people we ran into at the store, to the Coke imprinted with Angie’s name from the vending machine.
This weekend we had the incredible, rare opportunity for a girls trip to a place we had never been before – Nevada. It was a total God Thing. You see, just over two years ago, we were planning our last family vacation with Angie. We had considered a variety of places and one that Ang threw out was Lake Tahoe. She had always wanted to visit, but as the cancer progressed, there were just too many variables to go that far away. She decided we would go elsewhere, but Tahoe has been in the back of our mind ever since.
This weekend we made it there. We got the amazing opportunity to visit a cousin that lives nearby --- the same cousin that works her tail off to create the amazing Faith Over Fear jewelry we carry at the store. The entire weekend was weaved with the golden thread throughout. We shared amazing dreamer’s sessions, brainstorming ways to spread the Faith Over Fear message, and we found inspiration in the most unlikely places. We cleared our heads while our feet splashed in the crystal-clear water of the lake. We met new people and were once again reminded just how small this great big world is. Every time we turned around there was another God Thing, a reminder that His provision is still leading us one step at a time.
Sometimes it looks like a coincidence. Some people call it fate or chance. But for us, we choose to call it a God Thing. You never know when God has placed you in a moment as provision for you, or for the person in front of you. Maybe He is working through you in ways you did not ever consider.
When my son was 4, he accidently kicked his leg through a pane of glass on a French door in our living room. Deep lacerations resulted in 14 stitches on his little preschooler leg. It has since healed well, but two strong scars remain.
Occasionally, he will comment on the scars being itchy or sensitive. He will ponder about what his leg looked like before or tell me the scars remind him to be more careful. His little boy mind does not even realize that he is stating the most perfect analogy of the scar of loss I have on my own heart.
Initially, when there is a loss, just like an injury, it jars us so completely that we do not feel the pain right away – we just feel shock. Our body and mind are just trying to grasp what occurred. Adrenaline kicks in. We are working to absorb what happened, while supporting those around us. We check off the items on the list to make arrangements and just generally are doing whatever it takes to get through the moment.
Once the shock and adrenaline subside, the searing pain swoops in. The extent of our injury, or loss, is realized and we feel pain, not just in the area hurt, but throughout the entire body. We do not understand how to put everything back together again. We do not foresee anything being normal ever again. The pain is fierce and overpowering.
Slowly the wound begins to heal. A scab starts to form over the injury, bruising occurs. From the outside, it appears it is getting worse instead of better, turning horrid colors of purples, greens and yellows, a constant ugly reminder of what occurred. For a long time, it seems that progress is slow and maybe even non-existent, for we do not realize the rebuilding and healing work that is being done on the inside. We are easily reinjured by unintentional bumps or secondary infections. It seems as though we will never regain our life and we will be stuck in this ugly pain forever.
Eventually, the bruises lighten and then fade away. The scabs crust over and we are left with a scar. We are slowly able to start doing the things we used to do. It appears we are healed. From the outside, it looks like all the work has been done. But while we are functioning once again, there is still this scar, a constant reminder of what we went through.
There are times we wear our scars proudly, proof of our strength and a reminder of what used to be.
There are times where the scar is too much to bear and we cover it; hoping if it is out of sight, it will be out of mind – at least for a moment.
There are times where we are embarrassed by our scars, expecting they should have faded away faster or that they should not be able to be reinjured.
There are times when we are annoyed by our scars as they get irritated and itchy. Something rubs it the wrong way and the pain and discomfort arise all over again.
There are times when our scars need extra protection, so they are not reinjured. We guard our scars to save ourselves from going through the pain all over again.
Over time, the scar of loss may lighten up and fade, but if you look closely, it is still present. The scar forever remains a part of us, a reminder of what was and how far we have come.
Your not alone.
Some days it feels impossible.
You think you have a hold on the grief. You refocus your thoughts. You have stocked responses for every situation. You push the feelings down to keep on with your day, to keep it together.
And then you are knocked off your feet by a smell....
a fleeting thought...
And in an instant it feels just as hard as the day they died. It all just feels impossible again.
You are not alone.
You will have days and moments like this for the rest of your life and that is ok. The grief is a part of you now, but it is not all of you.
Let it out. Be as mad or sad as you need to be. Yell at God if that is what you need to do. He can take it.
Find a safe way to release all the hurt out so it quits following you around every moment. Ask God the big questions. Talk to others who have walked down this path. Journal for yourself. Listen to music. Refocus your thoughts on gratitude. Pray for grace and understanding. FIGHT for your peace.
Despite all that has happened, God is still showing you the way. He has not abandoned you. Talk to Him. Look for the God Things He is placing in your life. God granted his ultimate promise of Heaven to your loved ones and ours. Don’t let the devil steal your peace.
Live in spite of the grief. Live your life with Faith Over Fear.
This Faith Over Fear design was created by Angie about a month or so before she passed away.
During a conversation with our mom one day she took out a pink post it and scratched out this design intending to get it as a tattoo.
When she asked her oncologist, he agreed she could get the tattoo as soon as her numbers improved after chemo that month. He encouraged her to do whatever she wanted to do, to go out and live life.
Unfortunately Ang never got the chance to get the tattoo she wanted. A few weeks later she entered hospice care for her final days.
Within the first couple days after her death, close to a dozen family and friends got this design or a variation of it tattooed in her honor. We knew that in order to keep moving without her, we too needed to hold onto the message of Faith Over Fear she clung to.
As we wrote and published our book, Faith Over Fear: Walking Angie Home we realized that this design, scratched out on a post it was so much more. It was a visual reminder of Angie’s message to the world. It was in Angie’s own handwriting reminding us to choose Faith Over Fear.
Today you see this design on everything from necklaces, to apparel, to vehicle decals and signs. It is a reminder to you to be bold in your faith, to deliberately choose joy, and to fight for your peace. Our Faith Over Fear Gear is another way to share Angie’s story with the world.
Welcome to our first blog post at The Norway Center Store!
Whether you have heard our story from the beginning or are just joining us, you will quickly see that Faith Over Fear is the mantra poured throughout our store, and our lives.
You see in March of 2017, my little sister, Angie Hazel, was abruptly diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer of Unknown Primary at the age of 25. As she fought through the weight of that diagnosis, Angie quickly clung to the phrase, Faith Over Fear. During her battle against cancer, she showed us exactly what that mantra meant to her and lived the remainder of her days choosing Faith Over Fear.
Faith Over Fear is not just a cute, catchy little phrase about God. Truly choosing a life of Faith Over Fear means you are handing over your worries and fears. It means you are deciding to focus on the positive. It is placing your trust into God even when it seems impossible. It is making a conscious decision each and every day to fight for your peace and believe that the best is yet to come.
For my little sister, she showed this action through her kindness to everyone even through her final days. She showed this through her focus on Jesus through the pain and unanswered questions. She lived her days choosing happiness, to make the most of the time she had, despite the fears of the unknown.
After she passed, our family tried to absorb what happened. We tried to grasp the why and the how and figure out what to do after such a tremendous heartbreak. And as we reflected, we saw the way God held us up through the battle. We saw how He placed people and events in our path as God Things lighting our way through the impossible. And through that reflection and the stories that came out about her life after she was gone, we saw how Angie was a light to so many others, a God Thing herself.
As we worked through the grief that first year, we started writing down our thoughts and feelings. What developed was our book, “Faith Over Fear: Walking Angie Home,” a book that brings the reader through Angie’s battle with her own words from her CaringBridge journal and our perspectives as her sisters, mother and fiancé, watching her fight. Our initial hope for the book was to share Angie’s message of Faith Over Fear and to help others know they are not alone in their grief.
Since the release of the book, we have been overwhelmed with the response. So many people are hearing our message and are opening up about their own story of grief and heartbreak. We pray the healing that has been sparked by this story will continue to spread like wildfire.
We are continuing Angie’s legacy by consciously choosing Faith Over Fear in our own lives. For my sister, Cassy and I, that included jumping into our own dreams. We always hoped to one day open a store where we could sell our handmade and repurposed creations and that of other small makers. After Angie passed, we were slapped with the reality that life is short and decided to end the excuses. With the support of our mom, Anita, we opened this little store, The Norway Center Store in August of 2018. Taking that big leap to put ourselves and our creations out into the world was Faith Over Fear in action.
Likewise, for the vendors that have joined us. Each month, we are blessed to feature the handmade creations of several talented makers. Some are retired or working moms, doing this as a side-gig, others have taken the plunge to do this work full-time, each has a hope and a dream and has chosen to be brave and put themselves out there. They have chosen Faith Over Fear and are working to bring their dreams to life.
As we grow The Norway Center Store we intend to keep Angie’s message of Faith Over Fear as the forefront of our business and our lives. This message is not just for the toughest moment in our lives, it is for every moment.
Hi! I'm Jessy, one of the co-owners of The Norway Center Store and co-authors of the book Faith Over Fear: Walking Angie Home. My husband Kyle and I live in an old general store, converted to residence, with our three kids, Ally, Charley and Rad and our German Shephard dog. You will usually find me with paint on my clothes creating my next repurposed piece.